Sunday, November 03, 2013

ModPo 2013 #54 Self as Languaged and Jejemon: On Hejinian's "My Life"

Excerpt from Lyn Hejinian's My Life here.

"The obvious analogy is with music." What could be less obvious? I appreciated the video discussion and the background on the My Life project: One section for each year lived, as many sentences as years lived per section. Fascinating! I like the idea of how self and selves are constructed from language. Mary Janes and Shirley Temples are terms that not only describe an American girlhood but they actually construct an American girlhood for an individual.

I think back to my own Filipino girlhood and the things that constructed me: Angel's breath cologne, plaid skirts, Marks & Spencer socks (to be had "at all cost"), Denman brushes, my stepmother's "unladylike" curses which conflicted with her outward demeanor of always-polished-never-leave-home-without-make-up.

Even today, I am always constructed by the politics of fashion, self-identity, economics. There is no way back. There is just this: constantly prowling the mall (and the Internet) for items of self-identity that differentiate me but that also mark me as a customer, one of the many who are looking for self-identity.

"I" am a construct. There is no way around it because "I" am languaged. I think of "Jejemon" or a new kind of language constructed by a certain class of Filipinos: on the lower bracket of the economic scale, usually young, constantly immersed in "texting" and always wanting a new standard of "cool." So they construct a language, a slang, that can only be expressed in text (or more appropriately, txt): GUDpM~ p0Wh. hoW ZaREZu~ 2nYT, n0H? itz alReADY 3 m nd u zAREzstLl aWKe JEJEJe p0wh.~ U sHoUld SleEp~ alrEADY~ BeCauSe iT iz l8~ jeJejeJEje~ – Translation: Good evening. How are you tonight? It’s already 3am and you are still awake. You should sleep already because it is late.

There is something inherently offensive about this language to me. But if I examine it closely enough, a Jejemon individual can construct a whole biography about himself (as long as My Life, perhaps) and it would come out in this confused text. If Language poetry removes the distinction between "high culture" and "low culture" this might very well be a sampling of a new kind of poetry. Because the Philippines is the texting capital of the world, you will probably find reams and reams of Jejemon text spouting out of our servers expressing all kinds of I-do-this-I-do-that. Is it subversive? Is it a cultural artifact? Signifying what?

Well, even that is languaged, right? What language soups are Filipinos getting themselves cooked in? Hahahaha! Reading Jejemon gives me a headache that Language poets never could.

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